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Ring Doctor Inherits Karate Master Father’s Legacy

Posted June. 12, 2009 07:28,   


A K-1 mixed martial arts fighter Sunday screamed and fell to the ground at Seoul’s Jangchung Gymnasium. His forehead turned bloody after being hit by the opponent’s head.

As the injured fighter howled in pain with his eyes shut, a ring doctor clad in a blue jacket showed up. After looking at the fighter worryingly, the doctor skillfully stitched up the cut.

The doctor breathed a sigh of relief only after carefully examining the fighter, who returned to the ring, and confirming that he was okay.

Dr. Choi Kwang-beom, 35, is the first son of the late Choi Bae-dal (born Choi Yeong-eui), who is better known to the world by his Japanese name Masutatsu Oyama. Oyama founded the Kyokushin school of karate, one of the first styles to allow full-contact sparring.

The Dong-A Ilbo interviewed Dr. Choi near Baek Hospital in the northern Seoul suburb of Uijeongbu, Gyeonggi Province, where he works.

○ Touched to see athletes’ eyes

Choi Kwang-beom is head of the hospital’s orthopedics department. He learned martial arts while in school, thanks in no small part to the genes he inherited from his father. He learned the Korean martial arts of hapkido and taekgyeon as well as kickboxing and participated in competitions.

On why he shunned competing in combat sports, he talked about his father. “My father didn’t want me to make a living through martial arts. He had such a strong affection for martial arts, but understood well that martial arts involve deep pain,” he said.

Choi said his father suffered pain throughout his body, including in the knees, hands and legs, around the time he turned 50. Perhaps due to their father’s advice, the master’s three sons all enjoyed martial arts but none made a profession out of them.

Choi’s younger brother Kwang-soo, 33, works for the Korea Ssireum (Korean wrestling) Association, while the youngest brother, Kwang-hwa, 27, is training to become a barista in the Philippines.

Ring doctors for combat sports earn between 100,000 and 200,000 won a day. The pay is rather low given the hard work they perform weekends.

Choi said, “Just by coming close to the ring, I feel my heart throbbing. I’d even do it for no pay, so money is not important.”

“I feel good to see the eye expressions of athletes just before they enter the ring. Whenever I see the determination in athletes, I feel sacred and humble.”

○ Scholarship fund for martial artists

How was Choi’s father like as a husband and father? Choi remembers his father as “very caring.”

“My father and mother never had a big fight. He was always caring and warm to his children,” he said.

Choi’s dream is to set up a scholarship for people who want to practice martial arts but cannot afford to. “There are undefeated athletes like my father but many others are third-rate athletes. I want to help people who simply enjoy martial arts and allow them to enjoy it without concern,” he said.